Preface: Opinions are like @$$holes; everyone has one, they all stink, and once it is a part of you, it requires surgery to remove. I will be the first to acknowledge that this includes the following piece. This is my opinion and many will disagree. That said, perhaps it will also bring forth the passion I feel for the University as a whole. I did not attend it, but hope to at some point for my Master's degree.
To the mods: This being my first diary, I have no idea if this is where this is supposed to go, or if something like this should be relegated to MGoBoard instead. I will leave this up to your discretion and am open to any insight you might have regarding this.
I became physically sick watching all this unfold. No matter how many relevant facts or figures you bring out of your arsenal, it has become, in essence, a religious or political argument. It has degenerated into blind insults among friends and family, "pundits" with a national outlet spouting whatever will get them the best ratings, a fan base that eats it up, witch hunts, mob mentality, and 2 sides that think the other one has their head firmly planted up their @$$es.
First, let me get this out there. Harbaugh, or anyone in his mold, will mean another 3-5 year crater/nuclear winter in the program (which is about 2 years longer than some of our fans have been willing to wait as it is). That's almost a guarantee because of the system he runs in relation to the one in place. That seems to get lost or just doesn't matter to those that can't see the looming forest for the trees a foot in front of their face. To me this represents who want Rodriguez gone because "he's not a Michigan man". Here's what I don't understand about that argument. Bo didn’t start as a Michigan man either. Bo was an Ohio State/Miami man. Crisler didn’t start as a Michigan man. He was a Minnesota and Princeton man. Yost didn’t start as a Michigan man. He was a Stanford, Kansas, Ohio Wesleyan, Nebraska, San Jose State man. They became Michigan men because they were allowed to implement the changes they wanted. They were allowed to implement changes that often flew in the face of whatever had come before them. And they did this without an entire section of a fan base crawling up their proverbial @$$es at every turn because "that's not the way it was done before".
Fear of change is paralyzing. However, just because something worked in the past does not indicate future success. This is a well known and regularly proven fact that manifests itself in many different areas of life on a daily basis. In fact, a lack of change often means the death knell for organizations that once thought themselves invincible and impervious to entropy over any lengthy period of time.
If, as a loyal follower of this institution, you truly believe Michigan is the leader and best, that also means the existence of an inherent willingness to take risks and chances where others don't have the stomach or intestinal fortitude to see it through. You do it in the face of adversity, criticism, and anything else the opposition can throw at you. In the case of this team, you do it in spite of a portion of your team's fans.
We sit at our computers and challenge a coach from a distance behind anonymity because we don't like him, and he isn't what we're used to, and insert reason here we can come up with and then point to and cling to the past like an overused security blanket that's disintegrating in our hands. Or we hold true to our new coach because we see improvement and signs of life and something we find fun to watch for a change. We stick up for him when he is attacked, fairly or not, because we see something worth defending when all is said and done. And we want to succeed by exhibiting patience because we feel we're better than that as a fan base. Or perhaps we just don't want to be the next Notre Dame, a program wallowing in insecurity and fading into irrelevance because they try to please everyone instead of just taking someone's vision and sticking with it until it has run its course. As a side note, I believe Notre Dame's coaches have been as guilty of this as their administration has.
I am willing to take the small risk of alienating some of you right here. But allow me this statement that may seem obvious, but for the sake of this piece is important to mention. The Bo era is dead just like Crisler's and Yost's. It was wonderful, but it is over and gone. Not only that, I believe it should stay over and gone. As much good as it brought us, by the end, products of the Bo era brought us The Horror and embarrassing losses to "new fangled" offenses that we, more often than not, were unable stop, even with All-American talent on the team. It had run its course and was becoming an inbred mess that could not possibly continue to be sustained without program-destroying ramifications. Change was on the horizon whether we wanted it or not. It was a matter of "when", and no longer an "if".
Frankly, the best coaches at Michigan have been the ones that realized the old system was slightly (or very) outdated. They were ahead of the curve in offense or defense and brought the other side of the ball along for the ride until they could match the production of the aspect of the game they knew best. They saw the inherent growing weaknesses of the previous systems and said, "I can do this better."
[EDIT: Warning. What I am about to say will be considered by most to at first be some sort of blasphemy. If you follow the logic to the end, I hope you will see I am in no way making a comparison based on current record, but on attitude and future potential]
Keeping that in mind, I posit this. Rich Rodriguez IS Bo Schembechler. He IS Fritz Crisler. He IS Fielding Yost. He has proven that he can win with great regularity when he's given time, resources, and support. And he's done this in multiple locations that weren't historical powers in college football. He is an innovator in a sport that doesn't have too many of them left, just like all of those great coaches we've looked so fondly upon for over a century. He is a representative of the next big change in college football.
Using that parallel as the premise then, what would Bo think of Rodriguez? If he was half the coach we all thought him to be (and I believe he was that and then some), it is my opinion that he would see the innovation and promise the future held and be excited by it. He would see a marketing cash cow in the making that would profit the University he devoted a large part of his life to. He would see new interest in attendance for a university with the proudest in academic tradition. He would look at all of you tearing at the foundations of the love of his life and probably tell you to go to hell if you aren't willing to stick it out with us. Why? Because Bo understood something few will ever grasp. He understood change was not only inevitable, but that those who adapt first are in prime position for continued success. He understood sacrificing in the short term for the sake of long term dividends. He understood myopia and constant gazing into the past leads to walking off the edge of so many cliffs we might encounter along the way. And he understood that if the fan base clung to him instead of the University, it would mean the end of it all when he was gone. That was why Bo was great. He understood that the good of the University was always the most important thing and he put that mantra into everything he did.
I want the "next thing" not because it's shiny and new. I want it because I want the continued success it has been proven to bring. I want teams to fear us again. As some of you know, I live in Columbus, and people are actually beginning to be frightened of Michigan's offense. Even here, they understand that when this offense gets a defense that's even mediocre, Michigan will be a name they fear every year, and that when the defense becomes good again, this rivalry may become as one sided as it currently is but in our favor. Around here, they have almost no faith that "The Vest" can stop our offense with anything resembling consistency. That is the right direction. I want the next thing, and to me, the next thing is Rodriguez, slowly and surely, improving in the face of scrutiny and adversity. I want the team I see every Saturday, growing up on the field, as my team.
My team that hasn't fractured in spite of the fan base that has. My team whose dilithium-based offense calls the worst defense, statistically speaking, in the history of our program the best defense they've faced all year. My team that says it convincingly enough that I have no choice but to believe it, regardless of what I've seen with my own eyes. My team whose backup didn't transfer because he knew he would be needed in a big way and became the biggest cheerleader on the sideline every week. My team who rallied behind one of their own and his brother who is going to walk again despite what science and medicine have told him. My team whose coach cares more about the health of his players than his own job. My team with fun fingerstaches, Donald Duck impressions, polo shirt/tie/nerd glasses ensembles at pressers, and a genuine sense of love that emanates from them and is infectious.
You want "the team, the team, the team"? Sit down with a pen and some paper and take notes, because the embodiment of that principle Bo instilled in all of us has played football every Saturday this fall wearing Maize pants, Blue jerseys, and wing-tipped helmets. And the coach that has made that happen is no longer Bo, or anyone in his coaching tree. To say that Rodriguez doesn’t understand Michigan tradition is preposterous. He's recreated the very best Michigan tradition there is, and he's done it in the worst possible surrounding circumstances. And he's done it despite those who have been too busy looking for ways to get rid of him to notice it.
Most of all, I believe wholeheartedly that this fan base NEEDS the next thing, because just like the Motor City itself, holding on to the past turns you into a dinosaur that can't keep up anymore. And watching this possibly die at the hands of those who just can't let go of the past is painful. Take a drive 45 minutes east from Ann Arbor and see the remains of what was once a great empire that thought itself invincible if you need proof. Clinging to the past doesn't honor a great coach. Clinging to the past in spite of all the evidence that an overhaul is needed is nothing but fear of the unknown. It slowly and brutally takes everything he loved and built through years of hard work and crumbles it to dust.